Rural ChurchesReaching More, More Effectively

By Stephen Anderson

A little more than five years ago I had a conversation that has impacted my entire ministry. My family had just moved to Fowler, Colorado, and the work of settling into the parsonage included meeting our neighbors. Our next-door neighbor told me something that shocked me: “I don’t think I would even know what the former pastor’s voice sounded like.” As I reflected on that statement, I determined that to effectively minister to people in this small, close-knit community, I would need to be visible and involved in people’s lives outside the walls of our church building.

Living and ministering for five years in a southeast Colorado community has been a welcomed, albeit eye-opening, experience. One of the first conversations I had with a church member included him telling me that I didn’t need to bother stopping at stop signs in town, because as small as the community was, everyone would know where I had been and where I was going, and they would just stay out of my way. Though I was born in a small community in Pennsylvania, grew up in a rural township in Ohio, and lived seven years in central Iowa, nothing exactly prepared me for ministry in the grasslands of the American Southwest. I have had to adapt my lifestyle and presuppositions in ministry in a number of ways.